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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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Lukas Novak replies:

Dear Bill,

I agree with you only in part. My chief point of disagreement is that I believe that I have proved the existence of particular proprty-instances, not property-exemplifications. The difference is that property-exemplifications contain the subject of the property as its constituent, which is not the case for property-instances. You construe a phrase of like“Peter’s being cold at t”
as referring to a property-exemplification, but this is wrong, in my opinion – it should be interpreted as referring merely to the particular property-instance, sans Peter. The reasons are the following:
• The head of such a phrase is, typically, an abstract noun (“being cold”, “knowledge”, etc.). But the entire classical philosophical tradition has interpreted abstract nouns as, well, abstracting from the subject, that is, removing it from the referent of the noun qua such. So to assign a different
interpretation to them goes against the established semantic convention.
• An argument from analogy: Peter’s son, Peter’s cat, Peter’s house, Peter’s product, Peter’s song, Peter’s voice do not contain Peter as their constituents, so why should we construe Peter’s weight, Peter’s knowledge, Peter’s physical states like being cold etc. as though they did?
• What exemplifies a universal property like being cold or knowledge is not Peter’s being cold but Peter (qua cold) or Peter (qua knowing). If Peter is not excluded from the reference, it must, being the ultimate subject, be the ultimate referent, too. We normally say that Peter exemplifies being cold, not that Peter’s being cold exemplifies being cold.

Furthermore, you consider the property-exemplification as constituted by the particular subject and the universal property. But this seems wrong, too, since it does not suffice to escape the master argument. Consider the following dilemma: The property-exemplification either does or does not contain anything over and above the particular subject plus the universal property (i.e. in our example Peter, and being cold). If it does not, then it alone cannot account for the change from Peter not being cold to Peter being cold – since both Peter and being cold (and not being cold, considering this one won’t help) have been there already, and nothing has been added to (or subtracted from) them. So clearly you
need something, some ontological item, to differentiate the case of Peter merely coexisting with the universal of being cold from the case of Peter actually exemplifying it. In order that these two states should differ really the distinguishing item must be something real; it must be something particular, too, else the argument could be relaunched again, and it must be something over
and above Peter and being cold, because these two items are shared by the two states and therefore cannot distinguish them.
Now I call this additional “something” a “property-instance” and claim that this is the proper referent of phrases like “Peter’s being cold at t”. The property-instance is the particular item that begins to exist in Peter as soon as Peter starts to exemplify the universal property, and it is the ontological item in virtue of which Peter actually is exemplifying the given universal – it
is that which makes Peter exemplify the universal. Property-exemplifications conceived as containing nothing more than the subject and the universal can never be up to that job. The explanation of exemplification by means of them is ultimately circular, because the fact of Peter actually exemplifying a property is explained by the occurrence of the respective property-exemplificationV in or at him, but the make-up of that property-exemplificationV cannot be explained otherwise than by saying that it is there due to Peter acutally exemplifying the property, not just coexisting with it.
At least some property-instances are really distinct from their subject – which is shown by the fact that the subjects can lack them. Therefore, they are not constituents of their subjects. We can say that Peter’s being cold is part of the “whole concrete reality of Peter” only in a wider sense, taking into
acconunt not just what Peter precisely is, but also what he has.
Nothing in the previous argumentation provides any reason to think that a property-instance is complex, let alone that it contains its subject as its constituent. We have specifically stipulated that a property-instance is that which is added to the subject to make it exemplify a universal, so by definition a property-instance cannot contain its subject. But I see no reason to think that containing its subject as a constituent is the only thing that can account
for the property-instance’s being necessarily tied to Peter. Also, I don’t think that it is very much clear that it in fact is necessarily tied to Peter. Is there anything that evidently excludes the possibility that the selfsame particular property-instance which is in this possible world Peter’s belonged in
another possible world to Mary? It seems to me that the hitherto analysis leaves these questions open.
These, therefore, are the main points of my disagreement with your exposition. I am looking forward to a reply.

Best regards,

Lukas

Lukas,

Thanks for the comments. I didn't understand the first, so let me tackle the second.

>>• An argument from analogy: Peter’s son, Peter’s cat, Peter’s house, Peter’s product, Peter’s song, Peter’s voice do not contain Peter as their constituents, so why should we construe Peter’s weight, Peter’s knowledge, Peter’s physical states like being cold etc. as though they did?<<

Peter's cat is the cat of Peter, the cat belonging to Peter. No one will say that the cat stands to Peter as accident to substance. But coldness does stand to Peter as accident to substance. Being cold is an accidental determination of Peter.
So I reject your analogy as based on an extremely superficial linguistic resemblance.

Peter and his cat are related in such a way that the man can exist if the cat perishes, and the cat can exist if the man perishes. But Peter and his coldness are not related in this way. Peter can exist without being cold, but his coldness cannot exist without him.

To put it another way, 'Peter's cat' picks out an object that only contingently belongs to Peter. 'Peter's coldness' picks out an item that necessarily belongs to Peter.

This is a reason for thinking that if 'Peter's coldness' denotes a particular, it must be a particular that has Peter as a constituent.

Reminder: Short responses are best for several reasons. Long comments get sent by the ever-vigilant Spam Nazi to the Spam Corral where they languish undetected.

RESPONSE 2

>>• What exemplifies a universal property like being cold or knowledge is not Peter’s being cold but Peter (qua cold) or Peter (qua knowing). If Peter is not excluded from the reference, it must, being the ultimate subject, be the ultimate referent, too. We normally say that Peter exemplifies being cold, not that Peter’s being cold exemplifies being cold.<<

I didn't say that the universal coldness -- if there is such a universal -- is exemplified by Peter's being cold. It is exemplified by Peter. Why did you think otherwise?

But if the universal is exemplified by the particular, then we get the fact of Peter's being cold, which has Peter and coldness as constituents.

RESPONSE 3

Part of our debate concerns the referents of phrases like 'Peter's coldness' and 'Paul's fear.' I say that they pick out fact-like entities, complex particulars such as *Peter's being cold.* If I have understood you, you think the phrases pick out simples such as a bit of coldness or a bit of whiteness. In other words, they pick out tropes as that term is used by D. C. Williams, Keith Campbell, et al.

Is that right? Do you hold that the phrases in question denote simple prperty-instances?

Thanks, Bill, for your responses! I apologise for my wordiness, I promise I'll try to be terse from now on. I will reply separately on each of your responses.

Ad RESPONSE 3)

I distinguish between "Peter's coldness" and "Peter's being cold". I would use the latter to refer to a "fact", a "complexe significabile" signified by a propositional content. I would say that the former picks up a simple property-instance.
Also, I would distinguish the non-fact-like complexes consisting of Peter and a property-instance, referred to by noun-phrases like "Peter who is cold" or "wise Peter", from "facts".

Thanks, Lukas. Let's see if we can come to some agreement.

'Peter is cold' is a sentence, while 'Peter's coldness' and 'Peter's being cold' are both noun phrases. I am having a hard time seeing that the two noun phrases name different items, the first simple, the second complex.

You say that 'Peter's coldness' picks out a simple property-instance. Now you will agree that Peter is a substance and that his coldness is an accident of him. You will also agree that his coldness cannot exist apart from Peter and cannot migrate to Paul or to anything else. Accidents are non-transferrable. We can express this by saying that Peter's coldness is necessarily tied to Peter. But if Peter's coldness is a simple property-instance, then it could just as well exist in Paul. Why? Because there is nothing in the simple property-instance to ground the necessity of its connection to Peter.

Furthermore, if Peter's coldness is simple, then it could be an ontological part of Peter -- as on a bundle-of-tropes theory -- but surely no accident of a substance could be a part of a substance: accidents are identity-dependent on the substances of which they are the accidents. So I conclude that Peter's coldness, if it is an accident of Peter as substance, cannot be simple.

Where have I gone wrong?

Continuation ad 3)

i) In my opinion, at least one possible reading of "Peter's being cold" is that it is a nominalization of the propositional phrase "that Peter is cold", which expresses a propositional content that can be asserted, believed, questioned etc. I concede that it can also be read as synonynous with "Peter's coldness", which denotes an accident of Peter. But it is mostly a lignuistic question; the important ontological claim is that one should not a priori assume identity of "complexe significabilia" and "simpliciter significabilia", i.e. of accidents and fact-like entities - regardless of the way they are captured in language.

ii) I am not so sure that accidents broadly logically cannot "migrate", meaning trans-world-synchronically. But I would like to believe it, so let us assume it.

iii) I see no justification for the assumption that "there is nothing in the simple property-instance to ground the necessity of its connection to Peter".

iv) (being a response to response 1 as well) I see no justification for the assumption that if X is necessarily tied to Y, then X contains Y as its constituent. All substances are necessarily tied to God, and yet they do not, plausibly, contain God as a constituent.

v) I see no justification of the assumption that "if Peter's coldness is simple, then it could be an ontological part of Peter". Just because it is simple? God is simple, too, ergo...? Or for some other reason?

vi) Simplicity comes in kinds. I claim that accidents are simple in the sense that they do not contain other individuals (like their subjects) as constituents. But this is not to say that they lack ontological structure (which can serve e.g. as a ground of their necessary relations to other individuals) altogether.

Ad RESPONSE 2)


I didn't say that the universal coldness -- if there is such a universal -- is exemplified by Peter's being cold. It is exemplified by Peter. Why did you think otherwise?

I assumed that an exemplification relates to what is exemplified as instance relates to what is instantiated. Therefore, since instance is that which instantiates, exemplification is that which exemplifies.

You suggest another construal of "exemplification": not "that which is exemplified", but "the fact of being exemplified". No problem with that, but let us be aware that these are two different senses - in fact, this is one of the typical equivocations in English (and Latin). The one is "nominal", the other "propositional" ("that Peter is cold").

Lukas writes, >>) In my opinion, at least one possible reading of "Peter's being cold" is that it is a nominalization of the propositional phrase "that Peter is cold", which expresses a propositional content that can be asserted, believed, questioned etc. I concede that it can also be read as synonynous with "Peter's coldness", which denotes an accident of Peter. But it is mostly a lignuistic question; the important ontological claim is that one should not a priori assume identity of "complexe significabilia" and "simpliciter significabilia", i.e. of accidents and fact-like entities - regardless of the way they are captured in language.<<

Compare:

1. Peter's being cold is unfortunate
2. That Peter is cold is unfortunate
3. Peter's coldness is unfortunate.

The complex terms on the left are all noun phrases. So why do you say that 'Peter's being cold' is a nominalization of 'that Peter is cold'?

But this is a very minor point.

You say that we ought not assume the identity of accidents and fact-like entities. True, but I didn't assume it, I gave an argument for it. By the same token, we ought not assume the non-identity of accidents and fact-like entities. You seem to be just assuming that non-identity.

The question could be framed as follows. Given that there are accidents, are they ontologically simple or ontologically complex? Is the whiteness of Socrates a simple bit of whiteness, in which case it is a trope, or is it complex? (We needn't worry at the moment about the exact nature of the complexity.)

What is your argument for accidents' being simple? I gave an argment for their being complex whereas you seem to be *simply* assuming that they are simple.

More later.

Bill,

In your last but one reply to Lukas you say

You say that 'Peter's coldness' picks out a simple property-instance. Now you will agree that Peter is a substance and that his coldness is an accident of him. You will also agree that his coldness cannot exist apart from Peter and cannot migrate to Paul or to anything else. Accidents are non-transferrable. We can express this by saying that Peter's coldness is necessarily tied to Peter. But if Peter's coldness is a simple property-instance, then it could just as well exist in Paul. Why? Because there is nothing in the simple property-instance to ground the necessity of its connection to Peter.
I'm not sure how we apply the adjectives 'simple' and 'complex' to property-instances, but I take you to be saying that Peter's coldness must be a complex entity that somehow involves Peter in order that it be 'tied' it to Peter, rather than to Paul, say. I think this is to model the individuation of property-instances on that of substances. But if we were to interchange Peter's coldness with that of Paul (assuming they are of the same degree) then the world would be no different. This suggests to me that the individuation of coldnesses lies not in the property-instances themselves, which can therefore be simple entities, but rather in the referring terms, eg, Peter's coldness by which we address them. And these referring terms are indeed complex. Peter's coldness is distinguished from all other coldness instances by being referred to as Peter's. Therein lies the necessity of its connection with Peter. Peter's jacket can become Paul's but not his coldness.

Hi David,

>>But if we were to interchange Peter's coldness with that of Paul (assuming they are of the same degree) then the world would be no different.<<

I assume you mean that both Peter and Paul are cold (to the same degree) and that the particular coldness in Peter gets transferred to Paul and the particular coldness in Paul gets transferred to Peter. If, *per impossibile,* that were to occur, then I agree that the world would be no different before and after the exchange.

But that is impossible (broadly logically or metaphysically) given the nature of Aristotleian accidents in general. An accident is not like a jacket. It is possible that the two guys exchange jackets but not that they exchange coldnesses.

Lukas and I agree that accidents are not transferrable. What we are disputing is whether accdients are simple entities or complex entities. We both think that they are entities, albeit dependent entities that cannot exist on their own in the way a substance does. And I take it we both assume that they are extralingusitic entities. If Peter and Paul are rocks, then surely both can be cold even if no language exists.

The phrase 'Peter's coldness' is of course complex; the issue, however, is whether the item it picks out is also complex.

Peter's coldness and Paul's s coldness are both individuals (particulars)and what individuates them is Peter and Paul. Lukas I think is maintaining that they are individuated just as property-instances.

I don't understand how accdients could be individuated by reference. Individuation is an ontological problem that needs an ontological solution.

Bill, this is your triad:


  1. Peter's being cold is unfortunate.
  2. That Peter is cold is unfortunate.
  3. Peter's coldness is unfortunate.

And this is my triad:

  1. Peter's being white is a color. [No: it is having a color, whatever that means]
  2. That Peter is white is a color. [No: it is a fact]
  3. Peter's whiteness is a color.

Your triad proves that sometimes the three phrases mean the same. My triad proves that sometimes they do not.

Lukas,

That's interesting and somewhat plausible, but I don't think it is right. Peter's whiteness is not a color; Peter's whiteness is an instance of a color.

David and Lukas:

The jacket analogy is worth exploring. Peter and Paul both wear jackets that are exactly similar. The jackets are numerically distinct but qualitatively identical. What makes them distinct? It would be absurd to say that what makes them distinct is the fact that their owners are distinct.

Agree?

But it is different with accidents. Paul's coldness (C1) is numerically distinct from Peter's coldness (C2). It is not absurd to say the following: C1 and C2 are distinct because Paul and Peter are distinct.

But one might also say this: C1 and C2 are simple items and they are just distinct. They are distinct like bare particulars are distinct except that they are not bare. I take it that this is what Lukas is saying.

David is saying that C1 and C2 are made distinct by us as language users. Lukas and I won't accept that because we will insist that C1 and C2 are distinct in reality apart from us.

>>iii) I see no justification for the assumption that "there is nothing in the simple property-instance to ground the necessity of its connection to Peter".<<

That is not an assumption but a statement of what is the case. A simple bit of coldness, being simple, obviously has nothing in it to explain why it is tied necessarily to Peter. You grant that C1 in Peter and C2 in Paul cannot trade places. Why not? Because each is necessarily tied to the substance of which it is an accident. Wherein consists the necessity of this connection if C1 and C2 are simples? I have an answer to that. You don't.

Dear Bill,

it seems to me I do have an argument that accidents are particulars that do not contain their subjects. It is the selfsame argument all along:

There is no real change from S1 to S2, unless in one of these states there exists a particular item which does not exist in the other state. We agree that if Peter becomes cold, then there are 2 really different states: S1 containing Peter and Coldness, and S2, containing Peter [P], Coldness [C], and Peter’s coldness [PC]. But if PC contained nothing over and above P and C, then there would be nothing in S2 over and above S1, so S2 would not differ from S1. So there must be something in PC over and above P and C; and it must be a particular since universals are neither generated nor corrupted. I call this additional entity an accidental form.

What I am saying concerning C1 and C2:

  • I do not wish to take a position concerning the question whether C1 and C2 are distinct because Paul and Peter are distinct.
  • Even if C1 and C2 are distinct because Paul and Peter are distinct, it does not imply that they contain Peter and Paul as their respecitve constituents. To try to reduce all dependency to dependency on one's constituent appears to me as unsubstantiated reductionism.

Bill,

obviously, what is obvious to you is not obvious to me :-). Moreover, even if I had no answer to the question what grounds the necessity of connection, it would not follow that there cannot be such necessity (unless you were able to show that there cannot (logical modality) be such answer). Mere epistemic modalities do not imply their logical counterparts.

But I have an answer. I do not say that PC is absolutely simple, I just say (and prove?) that it does not contain Peter. IMHO accidents, just like substances, do have a structure of metaphysical parts which explains why some predicates are true of them. For example, PC has a metaphysical part which makes it an accident and explains why it needs a subject. It has a metaphysical part that makes it corporeal accident and explains why it needs a subject that is a body. It has a metaphysical part that makes it a feeling and explains why it needs a subject that is sensitive. And it has a metaphysical part which makes it this bit of coldness and explains why it needs Peter as subject.

Besides, you had no reply to my objection that the principle that necessary dependency implies containment implies that all things contain God.

And a last one bit today for Bill:

I would say that any instance of a color is a color. Just like any instance of man is a man and any instance of treason is a treason. Peter's whiteness certainly is Peter's color, just like his courage is his virtue etc. And whosever color is a color, as seems plain.

If you say that Peter's whiteness is not a color but an instance of color, shouldn't you also say that Peter's coldness is not an accident but an instance of accident? The difference is just in generality: accident is a higher genus than color.

Bill,

I wonder if I might step back and offer a general observation on how arguments like this one tend to go. Let me summarise the story so far. We start with substances and universals and are faced with the question of how accidental change is possible in substances. We are led to hypothesise 'property-exemplifications' or 'accidents' whose passing in and out of existence accounts for change. They act as truth-makers for property-possession assertions. We are then faced with the question of how these accidents are tied to substances. A hypothetical 'tie' entity stares into Bradley's abyss so we hypothesise that accidents are complex entities having substances as 'ontological parts'. We are now faced with the question as to what constitutes the relation of 'ontological parthood'.

Now my observation is that we seem to be getting further and further away from the original problem. We are required to understand and explain more and more types of entity and relation. Now sometimes a solution to a problem does involve an initial complication or at least a generalisation. The risk, surely, is that the ramifications will never cease. So I would like to ask a couple of questions. How confident are you personally that this 'style' of metaphysical scheme will converge (assuming you believe it needs to)? And are there metaphysical approaches that tackle head-on the original problem (which I see as one of understanding how universals inhere in substances)?

Lukas,

So now your view is that accidents are not simple? In your artcile you identified them with tropes. Tropes are simple.

>>Besides, you had no reply to my objection that the principle that necessary dependency implies containment implies that all things contain God.<<

I never made the general claim that if if x is necessarily dependent on y, then x contains y.

I was talking quite specifically about the 'relation' between an accident and a substance that the accident inheres in. If the whiteness of Socrates is simple, then there is nothing about it to explain why it is tied necessarily to Socrates rather than Plato.

If you would like to continue this discussion -- and if you lack time or desire I fuly understand -- then please see my latest post on this topic: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2013/02/accidents-of-a-substance-simple-or-complex.html

David,

You raise good questions. We start with some simple fact such as that of alterational or accidental change, but in trying to understand it we end up with a proliferation of distinctions that raise more questions than they answer.

So let me ask you: do you think there is a genuine problem here? If yes, how would your formulate it?

Hello Bill,

If I am honest, some days I think there is no problem---universals arise from our tendency to move from 'is cold' to 'has coldness', but the latter can be paraphrased away, eg, Tom's coldness makes him shiver <---> Tom shivers because he is cold. Other days I think it may be possible to make sense of universals as some kind of entity. The problem is to elaborate on kind of entity and account for inherence. My difficulty with constituent ontology as I understand it from reading your posts is that for me it lacks satisfying explanatory power. If I may say so, it seems merely to restate the data in a more elaborate language. On my realist days I try to understand particulars instantiating universals on the model of wallpaper exemplifying patterns. Universals are thus possible ways of arranging simples, and we are in the realm of geometry and combinatorics. This seems to work for a range of sensible material properties. But it doesn't seem to work for powers, eg, sightedness, or for abstractions, eg, how 7 exemplifies oddness, without considerable generalisation of the notion of pattern. I'd be keen to hear if you know of any work along these lines.

Bill,

I apologise, but I am not sure in what sense you use "simple", and I confess I fail to grasp on which basis you ascribe me now one and now other view concernig accidental simplicity. In my view accidents are simple in the sense that they are individuals, having each their own single essence, and not aggregates of individuals. There are no real distinctions within them. They are not dependent on their parts but their parts are dependent on them. But they are not simple like God is simple, nor like primitive concepts are simple, i.e. having no parts in any sense whatsoever. Their essences have certain metaphysical structure of metaphysical parts that are distinct from each other by lesser-than-real-distinctions. Such distinctions do not destroy their individual unity, but allow their metaphysical parts to be conceived separately and play important explanatory roles.

I have compared accidents to tropes because both are individual instances of "non-sortal" properties, and because the question whether they are absolutely simple or whether they have some internal structure (and whether they have it just potentially as the Thomists say, or actually as the Scotists argue) seems to me irrelevant for the argument for their existence. The only thing the my argument directly proves about them is, IMHO, that they are particular instances of contingent properties inhering in but not containing their subject.

Dear Bill,

I am most interested in continuing the discussion; I hope I will manage to keep up.

You wrote:


I never made the general claim that if if x is necessarily dependent on y, then x contains y.

I know that; but it seems to me that you are bound to assume it in order that your arguments are valid. For example, you said:

Peter's coldness, for example, has Peter and coldness as constituents. It is a complex, not a simple. (If it were a simple, there would be nothing about it to tie it necessarily to Peter. [...])

And then again above:

If the whiteness of Socrates is simple, then there is nothing about it to explain why it is tied necessarily to Socrates rather than Plato.

Since you have not offered any particular reason why such an implication should hold in the special case of accident-substance relation, one naturally assumes that it is based on a general principle. For it is hard to see why necessary tie between simples should be forbidden in case of accidents and not in other cases. If it is not the case that necessary dependence generally implies non-simplicity and containment, then why precisely in accidents it is the case? You seem to be begging the question here. You said it is obvious, but I simply fail to see it. Even if an accident were an absolutely simple unrepeatable particular, as e.g. Occam would have it, still it could be necessarily tied to its substance precisely because it is what it is: this individual accident intrinsically by its nature related to this individual substance. If you allow some internal structure along certain more realist ways, then you obtain a better-articulated grasp of what the accident is, and therefore also a better-articulated reply to the question why it is necessarily tied to its subject. But that seems to be beside the point. The burden of proof seems to lie on the one who claims that an accident must needs contain its subject in order to be necessarily tied to it, to show any inconsistency in the alternative scenario proposed.

Perhaps I have missed something, but it seems to me that even in your most recent post you do not make any argument in this regard, you just state your theory and say that necessary dependence of a simple trope on a substance makes no sense to you - and then you refer to your earlier posts.

David,

it seems to me that the move from "is cold" to "has coldness" has nothing to do with the universals-particulars (or nominalism-realism) issue. The distinction between "cold" and "coldness" is the distinction between the concrete and the abstract; but this is not the same as the distinction between the particular and the universal. "Cold" is as universals as "coldness", and if you construe it to refer to a particular cold thing, then you can as well construe "coldness" to refer to the particular coldness of that thing.

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